Citizens Hearings Come to World Health Assembly

This guest post was provided by White Ribbon Alliance and written by Brigid McConville


Watch a short film about the Citizens’ Hearings.

“We’ve got a gap of political accountability in the global process of the World Health Assembly. We can shine a light on what they are doing.”

Thus spoke Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet and Co-Chair of the iERG (Independent Expert Review Group on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health), when interviewed by White Ribbon Alliance Citizen Reporters during the UNGA last September.

And this week we did shine that light. Our ground breaking Global Dialogue between citizens and governments took place on May 21st at Geneva’s Palais de Nations. This is the first time citizens have ever been heard in this way during any World Health Assembly.

Richard Horton chaired the event, which featured citizens from Indonesia and Tanzania. Responses came from a number of government representatives, as well as from WHO’s Flavia Bustreo and Betsy McCallon from White Ribbon Alliance who also Chairs the NGO Constituency of PMNCH.

The Global Dialogue brought to Geneva the recommendations of Citizens Hearings which have now taken place in some 30 countries in numerous communities and districts, as well as at national level.

In this truly remarkable movement for citizen led accountability, tens of thousands of people, including health care providers, district leaders, and elected officials have met together to discuss what isn’t working and to come up with practical solutions.

Faridah Luyiga Mwanje from White Ribbon Alliance Uganda presents the Joint Statement of partners in the Citizens Hearings to Ban Ki-moon in New York, May 14th 2015.

Faridah Luyiga Mwanje from White Ribbon Alliance Uganda presents the Joint Statement of partners in the Citizens Hearings to Ban Ki-moon in New York, May 14th 2015.

Their collective recommendations call for citizens to be included in health planning, decision making and monitoring – at local level as well as at top table. Also key is how people can hold politicians to account for their rights to better reproductive health services – for women, newborns, children and young people.

Family planning, reproductive rights, adolescent health, budgets, emergency obstetric care – these are high on the citizens’ agenda and have already been shared with Ban Ki-moon as he updated the game changing 2012 Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s & Adolescent’s health.

Meanwhile, accountability has emerged as THE buzzword at this year’s WHA, with increasing recognition that citizens have an immense role to play in making sure governments keep their promises to their people.

Citizens are not only calling on governments to account for their delivery on the Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, but are now pushing for a strong accountability framework in the latest Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s & Adolescents’ Health and within the Sustainable Development Goals. Citizens and civil society are ready to be part of progress into the future; we look to our leaders to respond.


Co-sponsored by the Governments of Bangladesh and Sweden, the Global Dialogue at the WHA68 was co-organised by White Ribbon Alliance, Save the Children, World Vision and IPPF.

It is the first of a series of Global Dialogue events focusing on citizen accountability in the context of RMNCAH, allowing space for a constructive dialogue between community representatives and their respective Member States.

A report from all the Hearings will be delivered to leaders this July before September’s UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, where the second ‘Global Citizens’ Dialogue’ event is planned.

More information and reports from the Citizens’ Hearings, including statements from Citizens, children, district leaders and politicians:


About the White Ribbon Alliance

Healthy mothers make a healthy world. White Ribbon Alliance unites citizens to demand the right to a safe birth for every woman, everywhere.   The Alliance formed because the voices of women at risk of dying in childbirth were not being heard. It rapidly grew as thousands of people and groups joined the network and is now the world’s biggest citizen-led coalition for maternal health   campaigning nationally and globally to persuade Heads of State to keep their promises and deliver on their commitments to maternal health.  The White Ribbon Alliance mobilise citizens and provide a platform for women and men to demand change.  More information:,, @WRAGlobal, #CitizensPost